Bad Medicine

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Bush administration announced its “conscience protection” rule for the healthcare industry Thursday, giving doctors, hospitals, and even receptionists and volunteers in medical experiments the right to refuse to participate in medical care they find morally objectionable.

“This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience,” said outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

The right-to-refuse rule includes abortion and other aspects of healthcare where moral concerns could arise, Leavitt’s office said, such as birth control, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and assisted suicide.

The rule, to be published today in the Federal Register, takes effect the day before President Bush leaves office.

Original DVD cover.

It sets the stage for conflict in Barack Obama’s incoming administration. In August, Obama criticized the rule proposal and said he was “committed to ensuring that the health and reproductive rights of women are protected.”

The rule says providers — including hospitals, clinics, universities, pharmacies and doctor’s offices — can be charged with discrimination if an employee is pressured to participate in care that is “contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Violators would lose their federal funds.

Critics of the rule said it was too broad and threatened the rights of patients.

They said they were particularly worried that patients would not be given full and complete information about their medical options. For example, they said, an antiabortion doctor in a federally funded clinic might refuse to tell a pregnant patient that her fetus had a severe abnormality. Or an emergency room worker might withhold from rape victims information about emergency contraception.


The Obama administration could revise the rule after he takes office Jan. 20, but the process would probably be months long.

A speedier option would be a congressional resolution rejecting the Bush administration’s late rules. Democratic Reps. Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado said Thursday that they would lead such an effort.


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Christian Medical Assn. and Americans United for Life praised the new rules.


Abortion-rights lawyers agreed that no doctor could be required to perform abortions, but they said Health and Human Services should require doctors and medical clinics either to give patients full medical information or to refer patients to someone who does.

From The Washington Post:

Critics began consulting with the incoming Obama administration on strategies to reverse the regulation as quickly as possible while supporters started mobilizing to fight such efforts.


[The rule] was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

But women’s health advocates, family planning proponents, abortion rights activists and some members of Congress condemned the regulation, saying it will be a major obstacle to providing many health services, including abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and end-of-life care, as well as possibly a wide range of scientific research.


Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill last month to repeal the rule, said: “We will not allow this rule to stand. It threatens the health and well-being of women and the rights of patients across the country.” Similar legislation is pending in the House.

Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, noted that Congress has a limited window to act. “Right now our efforts are focused on the executive branch.”

The regulation’s supporters, including some members of Congress, vowed to defend it.

“We will marshal a nonpartisan, grass-roots coalition to prevent any weakening of current conscience protections,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group that opposes abortion.

David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association said: “We will do all in our power to ensure that health-care professionals have the same civil rights enjoyed by all Americans. These regulations are needed, do not change the law but simply stop religious discrimination.”


The rule, which will cost more than $44 million to implement, gives more than 584,000 health-care organizations until Oct. 1 to provide written certification of their compliance. Those that do not comply face having their funding cut off or being required to return funding they have received.

Officials at hospitals and clinics predicted the regulation will cause widespread disruptions, forcing family planning centers and fertility clinics, for example, to hire employees even if they oppose abortions or in vitro fertilization procedures that can destroy embryos.


Leavitt initially said the regulation was intended primarily to protect workers who object to abortion. The final rule, however, affects a far broader array of services, protecting workers who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception they consider equivalent to abortion, or to inform patients where they might obtain such care. The rule could also protect workers who object to certain types of end-of-life care or to withdrawing care, or even perhaps providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians.

While primarily aimed at doctors and nurses, it offers protection to anyone with a “reasonable” connection to objectionable care — including ultrasound technicians, nurses aides, secretaries and even janitors who might have to clean equipment used in procedures they deem objectionable.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Hospital Association had opposed the measure along with pro-abortion groups.

“Under the guise of protecting religious freedom, this clause now serves as a means for medical professionals to opt out of providing essential reproductive health-care services and medications,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, in a statement. “It will be the poor and powerless who will be most affected by this draconian measure.”

The Bush administration acknowledged that existing laws already provide protections but argued that the new rule was needed to “raise awareness of federal conscience protections and provide for their enforcement,” according to the Associated Press.


Filed under 2008 election, abortion, Barack Obama, Chimpy, Congress, Family Research Council, Gay rights, George W. Bush, Health and Human Services Department, Hillary Clinton, Homophobia, Homosexuality, humor, movies, parody, politics, religion, Republicans, snark, Tony Perkins, Wordpress Political Blogs

12 responses to “Bad Medicine

  1. jlms qkw - jenn

    leavitt was my governor. nasty one, him.

  2. jlms qkw - jenn

    oh and “raise awareness” my ass. toss a bone to the freeper base, rather.

  3. jenn,
    i wasn’t aware that leavitt had been a governor. this was a parting gift to the pro-lifers and the fundies. i wonder what they will do if an atheist or agnostic doctor refuses to treat a fundie patient, because s/he doesn’t like religious people.

    i wonder if anyone in other professions will bring suit. why is it only for those working in the medical field? if a hindu waitress refuses to serve beef in a steakhouse, because she considers cows to be sacred, is her job protected since she is obeying her conscience? does she have less rights than a nurse or a pharmacist?

    my worry is that fundies will swarm all over hospitals and doctors’ offices for employment. once they are there, they will be able to refuse to do any damned thing they want and say that it is against their religious beliefs. if this is allowed to go into effect, it’s going to be a fu¢king nightmare.

  4. This is dreadful. I fear this could take this country back to times like pre-civil-rights days. It seems to me that anyone will be able to refuse to do anything and say it is for a religious purpose.

    If you’re in health care, you’re there for the patients. That is how it is supposed to be. You’re not there to promote or protect your religious beliefs. It’s not the right forum.

    There are plenty of ‘religious’ people in health care. That is a good thing. But, refusing to provide medical care, and using one’s religious beliefs as the excuse, is not good.

    What if I am a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, phlebotomist, lab worker, aide …

    If I believe a man should have short hair, or a woman long hair, is it my place to refuse to treat ones whose hair is the wrong length?

    If I do not believe in sex outside of marriage, is it my place to refuse to prescribe, or fill prescriptions for, birth control medications for those who are unmarried?

    If I think homosexuals are people who are sinners who choose a homosexual lifestyle, is it my place not to provide care at all?

    If I believe all pregnancy is ordained (or not) by God (not with intervention by doctors to aid in fertilization and implantation of embryos), do I refuse to work with couples seeking to become pregnant (heterosexual married couples with fertility issues or same sex couples)?

    What if I don’t want to work with a patient who has a contagious disease? Do I just not take care of that patient?

    What about just ‘disagreeing’ with a patient’s beliefs, clothes, race, politics, religion, social group, economic status … there is no end to the abuses that could happen in the name of protecting the rights of the health care workers.

    The purpose of health care is to take care of people who have a health-related need. It is not to take care of the religious sensitivities of health care workers. That is why we have churches, synagogues, mosques …. just to name three places health care workers can go to take care of spiritual and religious needs.

    It is not my right to refuse care to you just because you differ from me in some way, even if we disagree on fundamental issues. If I am in health care, I am there to care for you and your health issues. I am there to be your advocate, not to refuse to care for you.

    I hope this new ‘rule’ is overruled quickly. There are too many ways something so broad and general could be used to refuse basic care to just about anyone for just about any reason.

    Please, correct me if I am wrong.

  5. I just posted (my comment) about this and realized I had even more to say:

    I am thinking of more things. What if I don’t believe in your personal habits:how much you eat, your drinking, your smoking, the specific foods you eat, the kind of work you do? The list could go on and on. All humans are capable of judging each other. And, unfortunately, many of us use our religions as a form of validation for our negativity towards each other.

    Please let us not fall into a state of lazy and self-centered thinking that would allow us to justify refusing care to our fellow cohabitants on this earth, our fellow travelers in this journey of life.

    We need to be our best selves, our highest selves. We need to know that in caring for each other, treating each other with dignity and respect, we honor all that is good, we serve God. Let us “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” We need to use our religions as our motivation to provide care, not as a reason to refuse.

  6. nightowl724

    Bush is a “gift” that will keep on “giving” for a very long time to come…

    I believe it was on The Rachel Maddow Show last week that I heard two more lovely parts to this ruling. One is that it does, indeed, go beyond reproductive care. The other is that health care providers are not allowed to hire, fire, promote, or demote based on employee objections to fulfilling their duties on “moral” grounds.

    For example, a pharmacy clerk who has “moral issues” with a drug manufacturer, or is a Christian Scientist, doesn’t “believe” in antibiotics, or thinks a certain medicine is a rip-off can “just say no.” Ditto for doctors and nurses who refuse treatment. His or her employer is not even allowed to ask about potential conflicts with “moral” aspects of the job description before awarding a position.

    Then, if someone does not, for example, agree to ring up birth control pills or antibiotics at the register, or assist in a knee replacement surgery, the employer can’t fire him or her or even move that person to another position in the store or hospital if it means a demotion in rank or pay.

    What a mess and WTF?

  7. this may be bush’s most disgusting act in 8 years = and leavitt — go read what a creep he is and how he funneled money around through “foundations”

  8. there was a case in miami back in 2000, where a pharmacist was not hired, because he is an orthodox jew, and he would refuse to sell condoms, as it is against his religious beliefs. he argued that eckerd (the drugstore that would not hire him) could accommodate him by placing the condoms at the front of the store instead of at the pharmacy, and other employees could conduct the sale. eckerd countered that part of a pharmacist’s job is to sell birth control devices and to counsel customers about them. it went to a jury, and they jury sided with eckerd. the case sticks in my mind, because that pharmacist is my cousin. he was not raised as hasidic, but, somewhere along the way, my uncle and his entire family became super-religious. my uncle died years ago, and i have not seen any of them since i was a kid (not exactly a close-knit clan).

    forgive my going off on a tangent somewhat, but this illustrates what will no longer happen under the new rule. pharmacists, hospitals, laboratories, and other medical establishments will no longer be allowed to ask questions about applicants’ religious beliefs. they will have to guess and keep their fingers crossed that they are not hiring someone who has no intentions of doing their actual job. rethugs are so worried about the economy, but they are now putting every employer in the medical field at risk. they will be sued left and right if they try to force someone to do what they were hired to do or if they try to fire them.

    and what about the patients? will they no longer be allowed to sue when they are only given the facts that the provider wants them to have instead of all they should be entitled to? if a sonogram shows that a fetus is severely deformed, and that fact is not disclosed, because the technician or the doctor does not want the mother to abort, is the right to sue them taken away from the parents? what about the rape victim who is denied the morning-after pill? what if she gets pregnant? is the facility who denied her liable for child support? they seem to be making a decision only a parent should, so why shouldn’t they be just as responsible as a parent would be later on?

    what happens if a paramedic comes to a house of a very ill patient and decides that an exorcism is necessary instead of medical care? (i bet that would be hunky-dory with bobby jindal.) where is the line drawn?

    this is a nightmare just waiting to happen. i guess chimpy feels like he hasn’t killed enough people already.

  9. Nonnie, go read dogemperor’s diaries. She has chronicled the plottings of the Theocratic Right, AKA the Dominionists, for years and has diaried about just this practice as one of their long-term goals to prevent others from sinning. This isn’t even the worst thing they’ve proposed and made into reality.

  10. neon vincent,
    dogemperor is one of my faves, but i am shocked! 😯 shocked i tell ya! i always thought dogemperor was a guy! she fooled me by not taking on the moniker of dogempress. she threw me off the scent. i guess she learned that from one of the dogs in her empire.

  11. I followed dogemperor to Daily Kos from LiveJournal where she is on my friends list. I’ve observed her in action long enough and closely enough to realize that dogemperor is female. I know, it’s hard to tell.

  12. well, neon vincent, i thought it would be rude to actually look! 😉